(WXYZ) — Back to school is here, and in addition to buying new school clothes, backpacks and gear for sports, it's time to make sure your kids' immunizations are up to date.
Vaccinations continue to look different during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. There may be more questions about what is required, and how often shots need to be updated.
Vaccination rates for Michigan's youngest children have been slipping. It's a trend that started well before the pandemic, according to Oakland County Health Officer Calandra Green.
"I went back to 2016 and really for Oakland County as well as for much of the state, we've seen a decline," Green said.
She said the percentage of 19-36-month-olds up to date on vaccinations fell from 75% in 2016 to 70% now. While the decline is only 5%, it's still a concern as it weakens herd immunity. Green points to the measles outbreak in Oakland County in 2018 and current cases of polio in New York state.
Health leaders are using back-to-school to urge all kids to get up to date on their childhood vaccinations. But one vaccination you won't have to get is the COVID-19 shot.
"It's not a requirement to have a COVID vaccine to go into the public school system, but it is highly, highly encouraged," Green said.
Since the COVID-19 shot is not required, you won’t have to get a vaccine waiver as you do with more typical childhood immunizations.
There was a big uptick in waiver requests for 2021, but though mid-July, Oakland County is seeing about half the number. Green says that's in part to an increase in vaccine outreach slowed during the pandemic.
"We're not focused just on children going back to school, we're focused on the entire family. So if there is a family member that needs a vaccine, will vaccinate the family member," Green said.
If your children are behind on vaccines, you can call your pediatrician or your county health department. They can help you get back on track.
They can also answer any questions you have about childhood immunizations.
In Oakland County, you can call the health department and speak to one of their nurses at 800-848-5533.